A leading UK disability charity has branded planned cuts to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for sick and disabled people as ‘intolerable’ and ‘pernicious’, after Tory MPs voted against a Labour opposition day motion calling for the cruel cuts to be reversed.
The Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap by 2020 – the gap between the number of disabled and non-disabled people in work – could also be detrimentally affected by the changes, says Sue Bott.
Sue Bott said: “A £30 a week cut in income is intolerable, especially when disabled people often live in deep poverty.
“There’s no evidence to suggest this pernicious cut will do anything to help disabled people get and keep jobs – in fact the opposite is true.
“The Government has recently issued a consultation on halving the disability employment gap. Some of its proposals are welcome, with its emphasis on voluntary engagement with a new employment support programme, the expansion of peer support and more tailored employment support.
“But warm words are cold comfort for disabled people who are looking at a drop in income from around £5,000 a year to £3,500 a year.
“These cuts will make poor disabled people poorer, and do nothing to help support them in their hunt for jobs and careers. The government should think again.”
Yesterday, MPs in the House of Commons voted by 284 to 265 against a Labour motion which included a call for cuts to ESA WRAG and in-work allowances within Universal Credit to be reversed.
The full motion read: “That this House notes with concern the £3.4 billion reductions to the work allowance element of Universal Credit as announced in the Summer Budget 2015 and the £1.4bn reductions to Employment and Support Allowance in the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016; calls on the Government to reverse those reductions; and the Government to reintroduce detailed distributional analysis for the Autumn Statement and all further Financial Statements, as was done 2010 and 2015”.
Heidi Allen was one of few Tory MPs to criticise the planned cuts to ESA and Universal Credit.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Debbie Abrahams MP, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, accused the Tories putting the interests of the richest ahead of low-income working families and people with disabilities.
Debbie Abrahams said: “The Government are still putting the richest first, by making working families and disabled people pay for giveaways for a wealthy few.
“It is clear that the Government’s cuts to Universal Credit work allowances will make it harder for work to pay and will further squeeze living standards. Universal Credit was originally designed to ensure that work pays. Instead these cuts will leave 2.5 million working families on average £2,100 worse off.
“In addition, their cuts to the ESA Work Related Activity Group will see sick and disabled people lose £1,500 a year, undermining the objective of the Government’s Work, Health and Disability Green Paper by pushing disabled people further from the workplace and into poverty.”
MPs will get another chance to debate reductions to ESA and Universal Credit on Thursday, in a second motion – sponsored by a number of MPs – which again calls on the government to reverse the planned cuts to ESA.